Femke becomes Funke: My drawer of self-deception

Nigeria is not the only place where false alarms and innuendo can cause quite a stir.

 As we walk by the chestnut trees of the Amsterdam Sarphati Park, two policemen are interrogating a biker at the entrance, their white car with blue and red stripes hurriedly parked on the pavement.

It is long after midnight when my friend and I decide to have a last gin and tonic on a terrace after our salsa evening. As we sit down, a police helicopter hovers over our heads and three more patrol cars rush by. I ask my friend; what could be the matter?

‘O, it is probably another shootout. There are a lot of them in the area these days.’

People often ask me if I am not afraid something terrible will happen to me when I move to Nigeria. They run the list of risks by me as if to check my reaction to each and every worst case scenario: bombs, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping. My answer is always that I fear the risk of engaging in Nigerian traffic more. A simple matter of calculation of probability. Also I trivialise Nigeria’s dangers by arguing that most fatal accidents anywhere in the world happen at home: your typical kitchen is a danger zone where sudden death lures in every corner.

After the incident by the park, I could add that Amsterdam is no safe haven either, as on any given summer night you risk running into a stray bullet.

All lies and self-deception.

Would I answer the question honestly, I would have to own up to the fact that life in Nigeria comes with a lot more risks than life in The Netherlands. One cannot be constantly aware of this, though. Over the years I have become a master in reasoning those risks away. In my mind I have a little drawer to hide stuff in: my ‘this is not going to happen to me’-drawer. Every human being comes equipped with it. Without it life’s risks and chances would be unbearable.

Every once in a while that little drawer slides open and you realise the pressure your life is under. That is when panic is likely to kick in. It is only human to close that drawer again and live on, something the people in Kano, Kaduna and Jos have to do every single day.

The drawer is for strict personal use only. It is hopelessly ineffective when it comes to reasoning away the risks your loved ones are running. When I hear of an improvised explosive device going off in a car at an Abuja parking lot, I immediately think of my friends in the Nigerian capital, wondering if they might have been in the area and I start making frantic phone calls. It is easier to deal with your own perils than with those of other people. I will have to remember that when my family in The Netherlands worry about me in Lagos.

The morning after the supposed shooting my friend and I go back to Sarphati Park. Families are having a pick nick on the lawn, a homeless man is taking a nap in the sun and sporty looking types dressed in blue acrylic tights are working out on the fitness equipment next to the foot path. As if nothing ever happened. When we get home and look up the incident on Twitter, it turns out there was talk of the Sarphati Park shooting on the social network all night long, until the Amsterdam police tweeted the real story: a young man on a bicycle had been lighting a bit of firework that evening. Nigeria is not the only place where false alarms and innuendo can cause quite a stir.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.



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